(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)
Two months ago at a pitch competition, someone I deeply respected called me out for being inauthentic. I knew I needed to figure out why I was only comfortable dancing around my background, and not comfortable being vulnerable and truly sharing what it’s like being a black woman in white male dominated spaces.
I realized my apprehension to being fully present comes from a place of fear. Not fear of change, fear of the unknown, or fear of outside opinions. Rather, the lingering fear I felt (and still feel) from jobs as a black woman, who does whatever it takes to ensure I wasn’t just the token, and can survive.
From day one of my first corporate job, I was told that in order to become successful, I needed to blend in, put my head down and assimilate. Sharing my story brings up emotions that I suppressed instead of taking action early on. I’m angry that I had to blend in.
I’m hurt that bosses ignored my getting into the office at 4 a.m. to beat a deadline, to focus on making sure I “smile more.”
I’m annoyed that in 2017, minorities and women still have to teach people about implicit bias. It’s isolating, disheartening, and can mess with you.
I was told to dull my sparkle, try to blend in with 50-year-old white men, straighten my hair or get a weave so that I look less threatening in the workplace. After eight years of corporate brainwashing and dulling what makes me unique for the sake of salaries, raises and promotions, I’m done hiding. It’s time to let what I think and let my authentic voice come to the forefront.
— Project Entrepreneur (@pjtentrepreneur) April 8, 2017
With each new post, each workshop, each speaking engagement, each pitch competition, I find a new part of myself. Customers, investors and partners are even more responsive to me and The Mentor Method when I do open up, let my guard down, and just have a conversation like a normal person and not like an over rehearsed robot pitching on Shark Tank (you know the pitches I’m talking about).
It feels liberating, terrifying and empowering to bring back what eight years of corporate training took away. This is my public acknowledgement of what I need to work on and a way to hold myself accountable to writing posts that are not just pieces on career advice, but stories about what I’ve gone through so that we can start having those difficult conversations to create real change.
I’m also determined to facilitate the much needed change in workplaces so that the new crop of professionals getting their first jobs don’t have to deal with a lack of inclusion. Through creating an environment where companies can use their top performers to be champions for designing an inclusive future, face their implicit biases head-on and begin changing diversity rates from the outside-in.
If you’re reading this, you know it’s time for a change. I invite you to join the new inclusion movement, by showing your support through sharing this post, and partnering with me for workshops, hackathons and pilot program sponsorship opportunities.